Gene Linked to Preterm Birth in African Americans

T allele found three times more often in African Americans affects collagen synthesis and amnion strength

TUESDAY, Aug. 29 (HealthDay News) -- A specific polymorphism in the SERPINH1 gene is found more often in people of African ancestry and is associated with preterm premature rupture of membranes (PPROM) in expectant mothers, according to a report published online Aug. 28 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Early Edition.

Jerome F. Strauss III, M.D., Ph.D., of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, and colleagues studied the relationship between a polymorphism in the SERPINH1 gene -- the -656 minor T allele -- and development of PPROM in two case-control studies.

The investigators found the T allele was more common in African Americans than in European Americans (12.4 versus 4.1 percent) and was 3.22 times more likely to occur in African-American neonates born from PPROM-complicated pregnancies compared to controls. The presence of the allele reduced promoter activity of the SERPINH1 gene, which encodes a heat shock protein involved in collagen synthesis and is necessary for amnion strength.

"The SERPINH1 -656 T allele is the first example of an ancestry-informative marker associated with preterm birth in African Americans," the authors conclude.

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